The Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) launched a roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s construction and built environment sector.
According to the “Building a Zero Carbon Ireland” report, the construction and built environment account for 37% of Ireland’s carbon emissions, the same as agriculture. This is made up of about 23% operational emissions associated with the energy we use to heat, cool, and light our buildings, with the remaining 14% being accounted for by embodied carbon. Embodied emissions result from quarrying, transporting, and manufacturing building materials, in addition to constructing buildings and infrastructure.
Projections to 2030 show the national retrofit programme will lead to a significant decrease in emissions from operating buildings. However, new construction outlined in the National Development Plan and the Housing for All policy will likely negate these savings unless embodied emissions are fully addressed.
Pat Barry, CEO at the Irish Green Building Council said: “The roadmap details a set of actions to halve our sector emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
The first thing should be to prioritise what is being built to meet our housing, health, transport, and educational needs, without blowing our carbon budget. That means better using our existing stock, including vacant and derelict properties, and supporting high-quality, affordable retrofit at scale. It’s important to realise that the carbon emissions of a deep retrofit are on average a quarter of those of a new build”.
Mr Barry explained that when new buildings are designed and constructed, the focus should no longer be exclusively on energy efficiency. The decarbonisation of the grid will support the transition to Net Zero homes in operation, but embodied carbon is locked in as soon as a home is completed and cannot be retrofitted.
“All new homes must be highly energy efficient and deliver as per design, but the construction process itself must be low carbon. We must reduce embodied carbon emissions through better design and innovation, so that low carbon construction and materials become the norm. With 400,000 homes to be built in the next decade, we must do it rapidly”.
Speaking at the launch, Ossian Smyth TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and Circular Economy said: “I welcome the publication of this roadmap which emphasises the importance of transitioning to circularity in construction if we are to reach our climate targets. A decarbonised, circular and resource efficient built environment will not only help achieve our climate objectives but will generate business opportunities and support sustainable economic growth. I look forward to working with industry and key stakeholders on the roadmap delivery to ensure Ireland becomes a leader in circularity”.
The roadmap was developed in close cooperation with 200 key stakeholders. It proposes, among other things:
- To regulate embodied carbon emissions in the built environment as already done in several European countries
- To further support affordable, high quality energy renovations, including phased retrofits
- To encourage the development of low carbon construction processes and materials, including a greater use of biobased materials such as timber.
The Building a Zero Carbon Ireland Roadmap is available at www.igbc.ie.